Unwritten Norms Vs Written Law: How Societies Fall
Any society, specifically a democracy, is run by two sets of rules – written laws and unwritten norms. When any ruler or ruling elite starts to play with the unwritten norms, although they do not break the law, they set into motion the downward trajectory of that society.
Because what happens after that is irreversible.
Once an unwritten norm, which has kept the society together is broken, sans any repercussions, legal specifically, then things go awry. The only way after that, to fix things is to make them into written enforceable laws. That is another bad idea because then there is no flexibility when such flexibility is needed in the time of extreme danger. In those times of extreme danger then, the society is entangled in the mesh of legal back and forth battles. No action occurs even when “barbarians are at the gate”.
That is why, in any democracy, saving the unwritten norms from being exploited is FAR FAR more important than enforcing law. What is law and legally enforceable can be actioned by an entire machinery. But that which is unwritten and non-enforceable but critical to the orderly conduct of the society can only be addressed by a few.
Unfortunately, the US is now staring at a existential threat to its very being. The unwritten norms are being played with and struck down with amazing alacrity by Trump. And it will take this country down to a quagmire that its enemies have been so wanting to happen.
This is a fascinating discussion between Fareed Zakaria and Don Lemon. And they are looking at this very issue from a rather interesting historical context of how America’s founding fathers looked at it.